FIND in
<--prev V307 next-->
Date: Tue, 08 Jul 2003 22:54:28 -0700
From: maa32 
Subject: (urth) Severian's motive for memory

I don't expect that everyone will agree with me on this one, but I think it 
justifies Severian's CONTINUAL claims of perfect memory a bit.

First off, let's think about Severian's audience in Book of the New Sun: he is 
the autarch, and he wants to quell the angry exultants who don't like 
commoners or half-breeds on the throne, the ones who gave Appian so much 
trouble that he had to keep hostages to kill if a family got out of hand (his 
concubines).  Severian also has to worry about threats from outer space, 
threats from sea powers that he doesn't understand, and threats from the 
north.  In the popularity polls, I think this would make a ruler a lot lower 
than Nixon.  Nixon didn't torture people from birth.  So what does Severian 
do?  He writes a narrative in which he purports to be a religious figure of 
DESTINY - his fate pre-ordained from the beginning.  He uses ghosts of old 
masters to put forth the idea that the highest form of government is loyalty 
to the person of the monarch: ie - whoever is in charge now is the big boss, 
and no hostile takeover should be allowed since he is like God.  Indeed, 
Triskele is used in this scene as a sample worshiper of Severian.  He placates 
the insurgents like Vodalus by claiming from the very beginning that he's on 
their side, and always has been.  He presents the Ascians in a more 
sympathetic light than can be expected because he probably wants the war to 
end.  He tries very hard to make it clear that he is the ordained master, the 
New Sun.  Note that it is not this Severian who brings the new sun and writes 
Urth of the New Sun - that is another one.  Notice that over and over Severian 
will try to show how his destiny was inescapable: he was forced to eat Thecla 
(who was definitely a supporter of Vodalus and Abia, since she wanted to go up 
to Lake Diuturna when she got out and talked about pelagic depths all the 
time), forced to eat the old autarch, and destined for a throne without real 
desire for it.  In many ways, the first four books can be seen as a political 
document apologizing for his rise to autarch.  He has been manipulated by 
powers which should not be meddled with, but from the beginning he had some 
presentiment of that great destiny.

Why the insistence that his memory is perfect?  For one thing, he wants his 
audience to believe that once and for all he is the commonwealth - all the 
memories of its rulers live on in his perfect mind.  Another reason is that I 
believe that he has lived his life over and over again - there is little 
evidence that Severian is going to go back in time after the end of Urth of 
the New Sun and be an autarch whose forebrain will be eaten in the line of 
succession.  And yes, Severian DID have access to the Book of Canog, which was 
the Book of the New Sun, and the story of his life.  It was one of the four 
that he checked out for Thecla, according to Wolfe in his little essay in 
Plan(e)t Engineering.  So he could have read his life before.

In any case, the political agenda of the first four books (which I insist were 
written by a very different Severian than Urth of the New Sun) is quite clear: 
Severian was destined to be the ruler, and possibly save the Urth, so don't 
rebel or complain.  Or he'll torture you, because he's good at that, too. And 
he's not afraid of putting people in their place violently, like Eata.
And he won't ever, ever forget if you betray him.  
Marc Aramini


<--prev V307 next-->